The Long and Winding Road to NSF Reauthorization

By PAA Web posted 08-08-2022 13:24


Last week in the waning days of July, Congress finally passed a major science and technology bill that had been 18 months in the making, changed names and form at least five times, and bounced back and forth from one legislative chamber to the other. The final bill, named the CHIPS and Science Act, (H.R. 4346) is designed to address U.S. competitiveness with China, including supply chain for semiconductors, and boost the U.S. research and development enterprise across a wide range of federal agencies, sectors, and regions.

Of greatest interest to social scientists was the inclusion of a reauthorization of the National Science Foundation (NSF) in the measure. The bill authorizes $81 billion in spending for NSF over five years, of which $20 billion would be allocated to the newly created Directorate for Technology, Innovation and Partnerships (TIP). There are also provisions to expand funding for STEM education and traineeships, to give underrepresented groups greater access to STEM education and research dollars, and to invest in programs that will bring research funding—and, ultimately, high tech jobs—to rural communities.

The centerpiece of the CHIPS and Science Act were provisions to address microchip supply chain issues and over-reliance on foreign manufacturing of chips, by catalyzing investment in the domestic microchip industry. These provisions really drove the measure forward and accounted for its ultimate bipartisan support.

While passage of an NSF reauthorization is indeed a major accomplishment, the new funding levels represent a ceiling, not a floor. Actual funding decisions are made through the appropriations process, which also moved forward prior to the August recess (see related article) and will be at the top of the congressional agenda in September when Congress returns from its August recess.  

For more perspectives on the CHIPS and Science Act of 2022, check out: